Chicago Black Woman CEO Robiar Smith is Making History

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Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Robiar Smith was encouraged by her baby-boomer parents to go to school and get a higher education to make a successful career and life for herself. 

A product of Chicago Public Schools, she did just that, earning multiple higher education degrees in Business and Information Technology and working in several executive roles in corporate America. In 2015, she found herself desiring more. 

Smith’s father, Michael Benton, had been an independent pest control technician since the 1980s, servicing the South Side of Chicago. For years, he planted the seed and encouraged his daughters to take the extermination exam and join the pest control industry. In 2016, Smith took his advice. After failing the exam a couple of times, she retook it and passed. Subsequently, she hit the ground running, building R.B. Pest Solutions, and that’s how her love for pest control came about. 

“When we started the company, and we’d go out on jobs, people were surprised to see me actually doing the work,” Smith said.

The Southside native described those reactions as a pivotal moment when things were taking off significantly for R.B. Pest Solutions. She didn’t realize being a woman in pest control was a big deal initially. 

The representation drives me, and as a result, these accolades confirm that I’m doing God’s work. They let me know I’m doing the right thing. – Robiar Smith

Smith’s parents had instilled in her that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Along with getting her hands dirty and doing the work, she built the structure of her company brick by brick, merging her corporate skills and education to create a unique and prosperous business.

“Like everything you see, from the websites to the logos, everything I designed. I didn’t go to someone else. I did those things myself, and I’m a product of Chicago Public Schools and the urban city of Chicago,” Smith said. 

At this point, she realized the importance of representation. 

“More people need to understand that we [Black women] can be in this space, and we can dominate it as well,” she said.

Growth, Legacy and a Historic Home Depot Deal

Seven years later, R.B. Pest Solutions is the fastest-growing pest control company in the Midwest. 

A black woman owns it, and it was birthed on the South Side of Chicago. R.B. has government, city, commercial, restaurant and facilities contracts that have never been awarded to companies of their magnitude. 

In addition to servicing Chicago, they are now in Indiana and looking to open their third location in the city. Additionally, some of the most prominent pillars in the community trust R.B. Pest Solutions to enter their homes and exterminate. 

As if generating the fastest-growing pest control company wasn’t enough, Smith developed R.B. Premium products last fall. Their premier product, a bug spray called “Bug Strike.” “Bug Strike” is so popular, it even made its way to the Black Carpet at the BET Awards, and numerous other media outlets have taken notice.  

The CEO describes her reaction to the success of her company as an affirmation to keep going. 

“It really is a confirmation to continue going because my purpose for it was legacy. My family, me being able to be a representative for little dark-skinned Black girls from urban areas, to see how I could have on a pest control uniform doing the work, and then shift to a power suit and run the company. The representation drives me, and as a result, these accolades confirm that I’m doing God’s work. They let me know I’m doing the right thing,” she said.

Building Community and Providing Opportunities

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses for Smith. 

The pest control industry is male-dominated and has presented its share of challenges for the business owner. When she first entered the field, not having people who looked like her in positions of leadership and power was difficult. Developing her tribe has been a process. 

Although Smith’s father had been in the field for 40 years, he hadn’t started a company. “He trained so many people, and they went and worked for mainstream companies and helped them become successful,” Smith said. 

Smith’s push to create a seat at the table greatly impacted the lives of those around her, especially in the pest control industry. 

“Many of them told me, in seven years, you went from here to here, and we are proud of you,” she said.

Community is near and dear to Robiar Smith, and providing opportunities to the community is crucial. “Everything we do, my team and I aim to focus on local vendors, venues and even Black media, from my photoshoot to hiring a black designer and a temp service for my new location. 

“Recently, I hired a local staffing company to bring on 40 additional employees through a local company because I knew that would be a major contract for them, from t-shirts, apparel, marketing, everything. I contact them and hire them to provide these services, and that’s a great month for them. Once I get awarded a contract, I’m using all local businesses, so they’re getting awarded it indirectly. So the whole community thrives!”

Smith shared that the most critical part of her success is the legacy she’s created. Running the business with her husband, Ahmand Smith, she’s proud they have planted the seed to ensure that their parents and children (Amaiya, Imani, and Amari) are cared for, and she’s watching that seed grow. 

She’s set the foundation for R.B. Pest Solutions and her family, bringing her a great deal of peace. Her young adult daughters have a hand in learning the organization running it, and her goal is to allow them to continue to show up as themselves and pour into it as the business continues to thrive.

The innovator and game changer continues to make waves as a thought leader and entrepreneur. She has been asked to lend her expertise and speak on many panels, podcasts, television and radio shows.

Smith’s tips for anyone looking to break into entrepreneurship is to know yourself to succeed. 

“You’ve gotta be in tune with you. Get to know YOU. What do you enjoy? Understanding and knowing yourself is the formula for success and the best way to help you cultivate and attract your tribe.” 


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